Love Never Dies of Starvation, But Often of Indigestion

Ninon de Lenclos? Apocryphal?

sweet09Dear Quote Investigator: Ninon de Lenclos (also L’enclos) was a famous French author and courtesan who died in 1705. Her friends valued her perceptiveness, and one man asked her for guidance because he was infatuated with his paramour. Lenclos warned that his ardor would cool if he spent too much time with the lady. There exist at least three different versions of her advice:

1) Love never dies of want, but often of indigestion.
2) Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion.
3) Love never dies from desire but often from indigestion.

Would you please clarify this topic?

Quote Investigator: The three statements above are alternative translations of a remark written by Ninon de Lenclos. A collection of her letters in French was published in a 1750 edition. The following statement appeared in letter number forty-one: 1

L’amour ne meurt jamais de besoin, mais souvent d’indigestion.

The first expression listed by the questioner was a reasonable direct translation. The second statement was less direct but more stylish. The French remark did not mention “starvation”, but that word provided an appropriate semantic complement to the word “indigestion”.

Here are additional selected citations.

Several sentences from the letter by Lenclos are presented in French below followed by an English translation published in 1905. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Mais vous n’êtes point satisfaits que la possession ne soit entiere, facile & continuë. Et vous êtes surpris après cela de trouver de l’indifférence, de la froideur, de l’inconstance dans votre cœur. N’avez-vous pas fait tout ce qu’il falloit pour vous rassasier de l’objet aimé. Je l’ai toujours dit; l’amour ne meurt jamais de besoin, mais souvent d’indigestion. Et je veux quelque jour vous faire confidence de celui que j’ai ressenti pour le Comte de _____. Vous verrez comment il faut conduire une passion pour rendre son bonheur durable.

However, you are not satisfied unless the possession be entire, easy, and continuous. And after that, you are surprised to find indifference, coolness, and inconstancy in your heart. Have you not done everything to satiate your passion for the beloved object? I have always contended that love never dies from desire but often from indigestion, and I will sometime tell you in confidence my feelings for Count _____. You will understand from that how to manage a passion to render happiness enduring.

In 1887 an enlarged edition of “Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men” compiled by Samuel Arthur Bent was published. An instance of Lenclos’s adage in French and English was included: 3

Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion
(L’amour ne meurt jamais de besoin, mais souvent d’indigestion).

In 1908 “Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations” edited by Hugh Percy Jones was printed, and it included another translation of the quotation: 4

L’amour ne meurt jamais de besoin, mais souvent d’indigestion.
Ninon de Lenclos.

Love never dies of want, but often of indigestion.

In conclusion, Ninon de Lenclos can be credited with the words she wrote in a letter that was published posthumously in 1750. Her adage was translated into English multiple times. QI believes that version number two above was the best although it was not as straightforward as version number one.

Image Notes: Picture of Valentine’s Day chocolate box from jill111 at Pixabay. Illustration from the Book of the Marquise by Konstantin Somov accessed via Images have been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Mardy Grothe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Grothe is the author of several fun and intelligent quotation books such as “ifferisms”. His website is located here.)


  1. 1750, Title: Lettres de Ninon de Lenclos au Marquis de Sévigné, Letter Number 41, Start Page 73, Quote Page 76, Publisher: Joly, Amsterdam. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1903, Title: Life, Letters, and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon de L’Enclos, the Celebrated Beauty of the Seventeenth Century, Volume 1, Compilers: Charles Henry Robinson, William Hassell Overton, Author: Ninon de Lenclos, Letter Number 51 (XLI), Start Page 275, Quote Page 276 and 277, Publisher: Lion Publishing Company. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1887, Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes by Samuel Arthur Bent, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Section: Ninon de L’Enclos, Quote Page 328, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Reprint edition by Gale Research Company, Detroit, Michigan in 1968)(Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1908, Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations, Edited with Notes by Hugh Percy Jones, New and Revised Edition, Section: French – L’Amour, Quote Page 266, John Grant, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Google Books Full View) link